Can The GOP Ever Truly Divorce Away From Its QAnon Wing?
What's the future of the GOP?
If Trump had any impact, it was how he managed to single-handedly transform the focus of the GOP away from a party based on a coherent set of principles into (no other word really fits) a cult of personality. When the RNC had a chance to issue a policy platform last summer, they issued a one-page fealty for Trump, whatever his agenda might be. (Interesting to note how Trump adopted the term RINO to refer to any Republican who criticized him).
So now that Trump lost and fair to say has exited his term in disgrace, what now?
The Texas GOP's tagline is "We are the storm". This has been the slogan since August of last year, and they haven't shied away from it to this day. For anyone not in tune with QAnon, the phrase "the storm is coming" has been established as one of their mantras for a while now. When the chairman responsible for the slogan was asked about this, he denied it had anything to do with QAnon and instead claimed he pulled it from a poem he could not prove existed.
Meanwhile, the Hawaii GOP made a series of announcements arguing that ridiculing QAnon followers is the wrong tact (They repeatedly referred to Q as a fiction). However, they also claimed: "the people who subscribed to the Q fiction, were largely motivated by a sincere and deep love for America. Patriotism and love of County should never be ridiculed." I'm on board with not ridiculing people, but the latter tweet is a bizarre statement to issue regarding a group of people who were salivating at the prospect of mass executions by a military takeover of the government.
In Arizona, the GOP had a contentious meeting where a Trump loyalist was re-elected as chair. The organization then voted to censure former senator Jeff Flake, Cindy McCain, and governor Doug Ducey. Jeff Flake has been a vocal Trump critic for a while, McCain endorsed Biden, and Ducey was called out as having presided over a "fraudulent election". (Ducey doesn't care, his spokesperson said "These resolutions are of no consequence whatsoever, and the people behind them have lost whatever little moral authority they may have once had."). It might also be relevant to note that Arizona was won by Biden (only the second time it went blue since 1948), and both their senators are now Democrats.
So the party is in a bind. A nontrivial portion of their base (and increasingly, their leadership) is just delusionally psychotic1, and the leadership has had to thread the needle between not completely denouncing them but also not totally letting them take over. They're having a tough time, with freshman GOP Rep. Greene and Rep. Boebert both having drunk the Q kool-aid. The election fraud saga also skewered any notion of an impermeable barrier between the conspiracy lanes since claims that the election was stolen necessarily had to be paired up with increasingly elaborate explanations for why the judiciary was not intervening. Lin Wood accusing Chief Justice Roberts of being beholden to blackmail in the form of a child rape video he was forced to participate in is the logical conclusion. (Add the chairman of the GOP Nye county, NV to that list)
None of this should necessarily be all that surprising. Trump after all, was the most prominent promoter of the Obama "birther" conspiracy. He also had, shall we say, a flexible relationship with truth in general, beginning as far back as the insistence on inauguration crowd size, taking a detour to black marker on a hurricane map, and of course culminating in loudly proclaiming the election would be stolen before it even happened.
Senator Hawley and Cruz both seemed to have wanted to ride the coattails of Trump's populist appeal, but they seem to have lost control of the narrative after what happened on January 6th. So that strikes me as an unstable equilibrium, and maybe one the marketplace of ideas will help fix. For all the faults that the Democrats hold, Biden held himself out to be more or less a "normie" candidate. (Now’s a good time as any to mention that the Oregon GOP believes the attack on the Capitol on the 6th was a "false flag" operation.)
Is it possible for the GOP to inoculate itself from becoming firmly established as the bastion of conspiracy theorists? The demonstrable detachment from reality for at least a portion has already happened.